Trapped emotions never go away on their own.
They continue to build up and sit there festering and simmering inside of us.
When bottling up your emotions becomes a pattern, it can have a significant impact on our physical and mental wellbeing.
Here are 7 ways that trapped emotions can negatively affect your life and sabotage your quest for happiness and fulfilment.
- Trapped emotions lead to stress build-up
Trapped emotions cause an emotional build-up that keeps your stress levels dangerously high.
In fact, suppressing emotions can intensify them, so your body is in a constant state of overdrive as it struggles to balance and lower stress hormone levels.
Daily de-stressing is not the answer because it doesn’t address the root cause.
Yes, it’s essential to lower day-to-day stress and tension by de-stressing and relaxing every day.
But while this is great for temporary external stressors, if you’re struggling with trapped emotions, your stress levels will still remain high.
The emotional build-up will typically reach a point where you do one of two things:
Reaction 1: You have a major blow-up where you just lose it and give vent to your emotions in a violent outburst. This often does more harm than good, although it does achieve that much-needed emotional release.
However, these sudden emotional explosions can make you come across as unstable or irrational and therefore, undependable. They may do irreparable damage to relationships or derail your career advancement.
Reaction 2: You continue to clamp down the lid on your emotions until they literally start to consume you on the inside. Your stress levels continue to build and remain high, and your health begins to suffer.
A large volume of research has shown beyond a doubt that stress is a killer. Stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and even cancer are just some of the diseases directly related to high-stress levels.
A 12-year research study published in 2013 found that suppressed emotions lead to early aging and premature death. Why? Because trapped emotions lead to prolonged stress build-up levels.
What to do: Start practicing by venting your anger, one of the biggest emotional stressors. The key here is to do it rationally and calmly by expressing how you feel.
Choose an appropriate moment to express your anger such as a private one-to-one with the person or persons who angered or offended you. A few calm, well-chosen words will work much better than an angry, abusive rant, and achieve the purpose without escalating the situation.
Here are some suggestions for the wording you could use:
- You know, what you just said was really offensive. I don’t appreciate it and I feel very angry.
- I’m really angry about the way you behaved yesterday. It embarrassed and hurt me.
- To be frank, I think that was totally uncalled for. I feel very hurt and upset.
You can also express your emotions in writing via a short text message or email. Firmly but politely express your feelings and avoid using offensive or abusive language.
This type of venting not only releases your negative emotions but gets your point across much more effectively. It also trains you to better control your emotions and impulsive reactions. You’ll feel so much better about yourself for having handled the situation proactively and positively.
Put this strategy into practice today and, over time, you will develop amazing self-control and the ability to express your emotions calmly and politely. It’s a remarkably empowering way to express emotions and it’s a win-win every time!
- Trapped emotions keep you chained to the past
When you suppress emotions related to a negative experience or trauma, emotional healing becomes impossible. Again, those trapped emotions will not go away on their own. They continue to haunt you and cast a dark shadow over your life.
Emotions like deep grief, guilt, victimhood, or even hatred make you a prisoner to them and to the past in which they occurred.
The situations that caused those emotions become a film reel that runs incessantly in your head. You dwell on the event, the people involved, what you could have said or done differently, what others should have said or done, and so on. You get sucked into a cycle of hopelessness and despair as the painful emotions are reignited.
Dwelling on the past is fine if you revisit uplifting, happy memories but dwelling on the negative can become extremely debilitating. The more often you do it, the more crippled you become in your ability to function and maintain your purpose and passion.
Naturally, this is a huge happiness killer.
What to do:
- Control what you can control
The past is over and done with. You can’t go back in time and change it, nor will dwelling on it turn back time. In a nutshell, the past is out of your control.
Choose to focus on what you can control in the here and now, by working to create a store of joyful memories and experiences. Choose to foster healthy relationships, experience new things through travel and education, and actively pursue your dreams and goals. All of these things are in your hands and are your tools for shaping an exciting and fulfilling future.
- Take control of your thoughts
Start wiring your brain to escape the past by repeating daily affirmations. Affirmations will train your mind to stop dwelling on the past and revisiting negative experiences.
Don’t underestimate the power of affirmations. They will completely change the way you think. Here are some examples:
- I choose to put the past behind me and stay grounded in the present at all times.
- I accept the past as part of my growing process and I am stronger because of it.
- I choose to release all painful memories and actively pursue a positive, joyful future.
- I look forward to a joyful, exciting future in which I achieve my goals and dreams.
- Reframe negative memories
Releasing trapped emotions from the past starts with acknowledging that the past has made you who you are today. Painful as these experiences were, they made you stronger. wiser, and more resilient.
Reframing the past in this way is extremely empowering and liberating. Choose to accept the past as a natural part of your emotional growth. Choose to accept the lessons learned and move on to bigger and better things.
- Release the emotions
The next step is to confront your emotions head-on and make the intention to release them. Honestly reflect on how you need to do this and take action. Oftentimes, these types of emotions can be laid to rest with sincere and absolute forgiveness of others – and even of yourself. It may be hard but you need to dig deep and find that forgiveness inside of you, perhaps through meditation or prayer.
You can also consider opening your heart to a trusted confidante and seeking their support, or by seeking professional therapy.
These steps will allow you to reconcile with the past, create new hopes and memories, and become liberated from the emotions standing in the way of your happiness.
- Trapped emotions destroy relationships
Ask anybody what they look for in a healthy relationship and the answer will typically be the same: openness and honesty. These two key relationship pillars foster mutual trust and respect, and they are built through the healthy expression of emotions.
Suppressing emotions impacts relationships on every level; personal, professional, and social but this is especially damaging to marital and family bonds. Hiding your emotions breaks down communication channels between you and the people in your life.
Although you may love and care for them deeply, it sends the message that you don’t trust or value these people enough to be open and honest.
Emotional suppression destroys trust.
People who know you well can recognise when something is bothering you or when you’re holding back and not being completely open. They begin to feel that you can’t be depended upon for their emotional support and growth. They begin to feel frustrated and offended at what they perceive as your lack of trust in them. They reciprocate by losing trust in you and the relationship starts to break down.
Strong, healthy relationships are vital to your happiness and fulfilment. They’re your safety net, your haven from the crazy world, and oftentimes, the source of your purpose and drive. If your relationships are suffering due to your inability to express emotions, you need to act immediately.
What to do: Start practicing with baby steps. It will take a lot of effort but the rewards are immense.
First, make the commitment to express your love and appreciation for one person in your life every day. Kiss your spouse and tell her or him that you love them. Give your child a warm hug. Compliment a co-worker on their outfit. Smile at a stranger in the street. All of these small expressions of emotion will help you open up gradually.
If you find it more comfortable expressing your feelings in words or gestures, go for it! Send flowers to your partner or surprise your family with a special treat. Send a text message to a friend telling them how much you appreciate having them in your life. Send a thank-you note to a co-worker thanking them for their help on a certain task, and so on.
Next, take another step by choosing to express your emotions to 3 or 4 people every day, then build up to more open conversations. As you ease into expressing your emotions more openly, you’ll experience an amazing sense of exhilaration and inner peace. Your emotional health and self-confidence will skyrocket and your relationships will improve dramatically – another win-win!
- Trapped emotions may cause mental health issues
Mental health problems can often arise from long-term emotional repression. The last thing you want is to reach that stage where you begin that downhill slide into chronic depression, anxiety, or eating disorders.
Repressed emotions as mentioned earlier, can cause abnormally high levels of stress. This leads to mental exhaustion and magnifies fears and anxiety. In extreme cases, it may escalate into panic attacks, phobias and drastically impact your ability to make decisions.
Repressing emotions also results in poor sleep patterns such as frequent waking during the night or insomnia. Poor sleep can also cause long-term mental health issues such as poor memory, depression, and anxiety.
Mental exhaustion is another consequence of trapped emotions. This results in brain fog, loss of motivation, mood swings, and ultimately, the symptoms of depression begin to appear.
Finally, being unable to express your emotions isn’t the best feeling in the world – actually, it sucks! You don’t enjoy struggling with trapped emotions and you wish you could be more spontaneous and open. You may begin to question whether there’s something wrong with you and allow your negative self-talk to consume you. This makes you a candidate for depression that if left untreated, can become totally debilitating.
What to do: Take control of your emotional healing by applying the following suggestions.
- Keep a journal
Vent your trapped emotions with daily journaling. Record the events of a given day and conversations that you had. Describe the situation in a brief sentence then openly and honestly express how you felt.
Were you angry, pleased, frustrated, confused? Identify the emotion you felt and why you feel that way. What particular words or actions triggered the emotion? Do you think your emotion was justified? Put some thought into describing your feelings freely and openly.
Do feel free to rant and rave a bit. You may even use ripe language if it makes you feel better. After all, nobody’s going to know about it but you!
Journaling is a great way to release trapped emotions while also helping you identify your specific emotional triggers. It helps alleviate stress and tension before they begin to cause harm to your mental health.
- Get help for sleep issues
If you suffer from poor sleep patterns or insomnia, consider investing in a sleep app. They’re fun and easy to use and can often resolve the problem.
However, if you continue to suffer from sleep problems, it’s vital that you consult a doctor.
- Seek professional treatment
If you notice symptoms like panic attacks, extreme mood swings, excessive food cravings, and general lethargy, do seek professional help. Most mental issues are very easily treated if they’re addressed early on.
- Trapped emotions can lead to toxic behaviours
There are some emotions that even the most emotionally open people repress, just because they’re so ugly. Greed, envy, resentment, hatred, and simmering grudges are examples of these emotions.
Yes, we’re only human and there are times when we do experience ugly emotions but we should never stew in them and allow them to build up.
Describing these emotions as toxic is not an exaggeration. Like a slow-acting poison, they’ll stew and simmer inside of you, consuming you from the inside out.
Allowing them to build up causes extreme stress and inner turmoil which over time can affect your whole outlook on life – and your behaviour.
You may be able to repress toxic emotions and keep them hidden, but they will nonetheless begin to reflect on your behaviour. You may become bitter, cynical, or overly- sarcastic and disillusioned with life – in short, not a nice person to be around.
What to do: Release toxic emotions by developing powerful inner qualities that prevent you from repressing them and dwelling on them. For example:
- Release feelings of greed with gratitude
Count your blessings on a daily basis to release feelings of greed. Start a gratitude journal and record 5 things that you are thankful for each day. Make sure you remember to give thanks for the priceless thing such as your health, the wellbeing of your family, and the wonderful people in your life.
These are gifts that no amount of wealth or material possessions can make up for.
The regular practice of gratitude is a powerful tool that dramatically boosts emotional wealth, brings you immense inner peace and joy, and protects you from toxic emotions.
- Release hatred and resentment with forgiveness and acceptance
A great way to do this is through meditation. The inner peace and tranquillity that meditation fosters will allow you to be more tolerant and accepting of people who have treated you unfairly or have been cruel to you. If you’re religious, prayer will achieve the same results.
Inner peace and self-acceptance are keys to finding sincere forgiveness in your heart and releasing all feelings of hatred and resentment for good.
- Release envy by letting it motivate you to compete
Envy is basically coveting something that another person has. It could be something material such as a great job, good looks, a nice home, financial comfort, and so on. Envy also extends to someone’s personal qualities such as amazing self-confidence, creativity, or social skills.
Rather than stewing in jealous envy and asking yourself, “why can’t I be like her/him?” just rephrase the question. Ask yourself, “why not make it my goal to be like her/him?”
Reframe the emotion to create a challenge for yourself. Set goals to actively pursue the things you envy in another person to make them a reality.
- Release grudges by seeking closure
Releasing a grudge may be as simple as having a frank one on one with yourself or with the person in question. It can be as simple as seeking an apology – or apologising as well.
If this is not possible or too uncomfortable, practice meditation to allow yourself to forgive and forget. Closure is essential if you want to move on with your life.
- Trapped emotions can cause eating disorders and addictions
Repressed emotions can become so painful that we subconsciously look for ways to numb them. Eating disorders, digital addiction, alcoholism, and substance abuse are all coping mechanisms that dull the pain of repressed emotions.
Eating disorders and other negative behaviours become addictive because they make us feel good. They give us a peaceful respite from the inner turmoil raging within. We find comfort in these unhealthy behaviours because we’re unable to express emotions in a healthy way.
The comfort is temporary, however, and is often followed by guilt and shame, which are also bottled up and added to our store of trapped emotions.
What to do:
- Identify your triggers
What emotion usually triggers an eating binge or other negative behaviour?
Oftentimes, anger or jealousy are the main culprits but you may have other triggers such as guilt, loneliness, or even suppressed joy that you’re unable to express.
Knowing your personal triggers allows you to stay alert for them and the behaviour that usually follows.
- Replace the behaviour
When a situation triggers an emotion that leads to addictive behaviour, immediately distract yourself by replacing that behaviour with something else. Instead of running to the fridge and grabbing the ice cream, go for a brisk walk, take a relaxing bath or engage in your favourite hobby.
These alternative activities will relieve some of your stress while gradually helping you break free from an addictive habit.
- Practice expressing emotions
Practice the methods discussed here to help you overcome emotional repression. This is the best way to address the root cause to overcome addictive behaviours.
Don’t worry, it gets easier with practice! As you learn to express your emotions, you’ll no longer need to numb the pain by seeking false comfort.
- Trapped emotions kill your clarity
Clarity is that inner compass that keeps you on the right path through your life journey. Clarity enables you to define your purpose, the things that give your life meaning, and what you need to do to achieve them.
In a nutshell, clarity is what enables you to be your best possible – and happiest – self.
Repressed emotions destroy your clarity and derail you from pursuing your purpose. All of the negative impacts discussed so far will come together to derail you. Instead of a clear-cut path dotted with milestones and goals, you find yourself in a hazy tunnel of confusion, overwhelm and loss of motivation.
What to do: Practice expressing emotions with the steps discussed here while boosting your clarity.
- Write down your goals
Put your goals into writing to mentally revive them and make them more tangible. Visualise them and dwell upon how great achieving them will make you feel.
This keeps your goals top of mind and keeps you motivated.
- Be around people who have clarity
Being around purposeful, proactive people will influence you and boost your clarity. Likewise, avoid being around people who are aimless and confused.
- Express yourself creatively
Find innovative ways to unleash your emotions until you’re able to better express them with words. Dancing, singing, writing or painting are examples of creative expression that will foster your emotional wellbeing and boost self-confidence.
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